Leola Produce Auction

Leola is home to a Pennsylvania first … a produce auction that set a precedent in enabling local farmers to market and sell their produce and seasonal products. 

As seen in the parking lot of the Leola Produce Auction, horses from the neighboring farm strolled over to greet equine visitors.

Founded in 1985, the Leola Produce Auction is the first auction house of its kind in the state, in that it exists with the purpose of providing local farmers with a way to widen their scope and reach customers from beyond the immediate area, as well as get product into the supply chain in a timely manner. Its success has inspired the introduction of similar auctions in the county, the region and across the country. The auctions are owned by groups of farmers, overseen by boards of directions and managed by personnel such as Michael Snyder, who is Leola’s market manager.  

The auction was a busy place the day we visited. The flower selection was amazing and the produce provided evidence that summer was on its way. Skid loaders whirled around the complex, moving product in and out. The Leola Produce Auction was the first of its kind to open in Pennsylvania; its success inspired similar auctions to open in the county, across the region and throughout the country.

The ongoing success of the Leola Produce Auction is also reflected in its recent expansion that saw the addition of a 71,790-square-foot canopy, which allows for more products to be displayed and multiple auctions to be conducted simultaneously. By day’s end (typically early afternoon), everything has been sold and is making its way along the supply chain.

Jordan and I stopped by on an auction day in mid-May and were wowed by the selection of produce and flowers. The auction typically attracts personnel from garden centers, farm markets, restaurants, groceries, institutions and other outlets. On the day we visited, the parking lot was filled with quite a few vehicles from Maryland. Apparently, that’s par for the course, as the auction attracts customers from all over the Mid-Atlantic region. The offerings at the auction, which is open from March to November, reflect the changing seasons, with specialty items ranging from flowers (spring) to pumpkins and gourds (October) and trees, wreaths and greens (November). The farm-grown produce also follows the calendar. 

The Penn State Extension is supportive of the auction system and occasionally hosts tours for groups comprised of restaurant and institution personnel, makers and those with food-system interests. In a press release, the extension explained the strategy is relatively simple, noting, “It’s  one thing to talk about auctions in a classroom, but being there and hearing the auctioneers, seeing and smelling the produce up close … it really brings the concept to life.” We have to agree with those sentiments. 

The auction also gives back to the community. As many of the owners and sellers represent Lancaster’s Plain sects, each year the Leola Produce Auction is the site of a benefit for the Clinic for Special Children, which recently relocated from Strasburg to Gordonville. You name it – carriages, carts, quilts, furniture, farm supplies, garden needs, tools and the list goes on – and it probably is an auction item. The food selection is also outstanding. This year’s auction, which was number 33, was held June 15. 

Information: Leolaproduce.com.

Next Stop …

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *